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Giro finale
Photo ©: Bettini

First Edition Cycling News for March 2, 2004

Edited by Jeff Jones & Chris Henry

Armstrong ready for Postal/T-Mobile showdown

Armstrong is ready
Photo ©: AFP

With Jan Ullrich's return to form at the 2003 Tour de France, where he pushed Lance Armstrong to his closest margin of victory in five Tour wins, the cycling world is eagerly awaiting another Lance-Jan showdown this July. This year Ullrich returns with his old Telekom team (now T-Mobile), flanked by a top riders such as Alexandre Vinokourov (third in last year's Tour), Paolo Savoldelli, Cadel Evans, and Santiago Botero. On paper, T-Mobile appears to be one of the strongest teams around, but Armstrong concerns himself only with Ullrich when it comes to sizing up the rival team.

"I think in that team there are too many chiefs and not enough Indians," Armstrong said in a l'Equipe interview Monday. "In the Tour it's pointless to have nine guys capable of winning. What you really need is one leader and eight guys who can give him the most support.

"All I can say is [T-Mobile manager] Walter Godefroot is a good guy, who's very elegant in the way he works, and he won't tolerate any personal ambitions other than those of his leader," Armstrong added. "As for Ullrich, the only question is how is he preparing right now, and that nobody knows..."

US Postal Service has shown throughout the past few years its depth and nearly flawless support of Armstrong, both on the flats and in the mountains. Despite the loss of two-time Vuelta a España winner Roberto Heras (who this year joined Liberty Seguros), Armstrong is as confident as ever in his 'blue train', particularly when the going gets vertical.

"For us, the most important part is the mountains," he explained, "and I still believe we have a stronger team than [T-Mobile]. Take Chechu (Rubiera), Triki (Beltran), Azevedo, me, even Hincapie, who last year was incredible in the mountains when he was still there with just twenty or thirty guys in front, and I don't see who Telekom can come up with to match that."

Armstrong is particularly eager to test his new recruit, José Azevedo, who joined US Postal from ONCE-Eroski after Heras' departure. Along with Floyd Landis, who Armstrong believes never reached his full potential last year after an early season hip injury, the team is expected to be as strong as ever.

"As for Azevedo, he's going to prove that for the Tour in particular, we haven't lost anything [with Heras gone]," he added. "Everyone says he doesn't have the same level as Roberto, but if you take the time, as we did, to look at the film from the last three Tours, you'd change your mind. Of course Roberto is a fantastic rider, we won the Vuelta with panache and bravado, but look at the Tour!

"If we had lost Chechu or George, then we could have been ruined because as far as their work for the team goes, they're irreplaceable. I have nothing against Roberto, he's someone I respect, but watch the videos and you'll understand... Besides, the Tour is a special race."

"Do they have some big names?" Armstrong asked, referring once more to Ullrich's T-Mobile powerhouse. "Yes! With big salaries? Yes! But it's on the road, in July, that they'll be judged."

Ullrich prepared for low key debut against Armstrong

The two Tour de France rivals, Jan Ullrich and Lance Armstrong, will meet for the first and probably the only time before July in the Vuelta a Murcia, that starts this Wednesday. But Jan Ullrich (T-Mobile), who rode his first race on Sunday, isn't promising a battle of the giants just yet.

"I've got no ambitions to show myself at the front of the field or to win," Ullrich told DPA. "I'm starting in order to get the necessary racing kilometres I need if I want to win in July. That Lance and I encounter each other is of no importance. Where we finish at the end has no meaning for the rest of the season."

T-Mobile team director Mario Kummer said that Ullrich wants to test his new time trial machine in the second stage, a 21.3 km time trial around Lorca, but that nothing further would be expected from him. Ullrich's confidant Rudy Pevenage said that, "Lance is at the moment further ahead than Jan. He showed that with his win in Algarve. For us it doesn't really matter how much time Jan loses in the time trial."

Di Luca looking forward to Vuelta a Murcia

Team Saeco will be looking for its first win of the season at the Vuelta a Murcia in Spain after a string of near misses in the last few days from Gabriele Balducci and Leonardo Bertagnolli. Saeco will ride with Danilo Di Luca as team leader in Murcia, eager to test his form after a less than expected performance in the Giro di Lucca. Di Luca will be joined by Juan Fuentes, Eddy Mazzoleni, Evgeni Petrov, Marius Sabaliauskas, Sylvester Szmyd and Damiano Cunego (in place of Andrea Tonti, who is ill).

Final teams announced for the Vuelta España

In line with the UCI's March 1 deadline for grand tours, the Vuelta España has announced the list of teams that will be allowed to contest the Spanish three week stage race. There are 14 automatically qualified teams as follows:

Ag2R Prevoyance
Cofidis, le credit par telephone
Fassa Bortolo
Illes Balears-Banesto
Liberty Seguros Team
Phonak Hearing Systems
T-Mobile Team
Team CSC
US Postal Service presented by Berry Floor

In addition, the remaining eight squads have been selected by the organisers Unipublic:

Brioches La Boulangere
Cafes Baque
Colchon Relax-Bodysol
Comunidad Valenciana-Kelme
Paternina-Costa De Almeria
Saunier Duval-Prodir
Vini Caldirola-Nobili Rubinetterie

In total, there are eight Spanish teams, five Italian, three French, and one from Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands, USA, Denmark and Switzerland.

The 59th edition of the Vuelta starts on September 4 in León and finishes in Madrid on September 26.

39th Tirreno-Adriatico presented

Tirreno-Adriatico, the "race of the two seas", was presented today in the town hall of Sabaudia. The 39th edition of the week long Italian hors categorie stage race takes place between March 10-16, overlapping with Paris-Nice. Starting with a 172 km stage in Sabaudia on the Mediterranean coast, the riders travel across Italy, eventually finishing in San Benedetto Del Tronto on the Adriatic coast. While being quite prestigious in its own right, the race is also considered an important lead up to Milan-San Remo on March 20.

Last year, Paolo Bettini was headed for victory until he was caught up in a crash in the second last stage. Filippo Pozzato ended up winning the race, but Bettini bounced back a few days later to win Milan-San Remo, the first of three World Cup victories for Il Grillo last year.

The first stage around Sabaudia should be one for the sprinters, as the day's only uphill difficulty, the Sezze Scalo, comes after 57 km. Stage 2 heads south from Latina to Maddaloni over a flat 164 km route. The third stage from Maddaloni to Isernia is undulating and includes the Valico del Macerone climb after 127 km. The final three kilometres are gradually uphill.

Stage 4 between Isernia and Paglieta is also quite hilly, and includes the Valico di Rionero Sannitico (1057m) after 59 km and a 3.7 km climb to the finish, averaging 6.4%. This will certainly be important for the final classification and will be followed by the longest stage, 215 km between Paglieta and Torricella Sicura. This stage features the climb of Crognaleto after 144 km, as well as some small climbs on the finishing circuit, which will be done twice.

Stage 6 is a tough circuit race starting from Monte San Pietrangeli and finishing in Torre San Patrizio. Four 43.8 km circuits are on the menu, each one featuring three 200m climbs, some of which are quite steep. The finish is slightly uphill. The last stage around S.Benedetto Del Tronto starts with a 108 km loop and finishes with six laps of a flat 9 km circuit, and should suit the sprinters.

The stages

Stage 1 - March 10: Sabaudia - Sabaudia, 172 km
Stage 2 - March 11: Latina - Maddaloni, 164 km
Stage 3 - March 12: Maddaloni - Isernia, 168 km
Stage 4 - March 13: Isernia - Paglieta, 179 km
Stage 5 - March 14: Paglieta - Torricella Sicura, 215 km
Stage 6 - March 15: Monte San Pietrangeli - Torre San Patrizio, 185 km
Stage 7 - March 16: S.Benedetto Del Tronto - S.Benedetto Del Tronto, 162 km

Total km: 1245

The teams

Alessio - Bianchi
Brioches La Boulangere
Ceramiche Panaria - Margres
Chocolade Jacques Wincor - Nixdorf
Credit Agricole
De Nardi
Domina Vacanze
Fassa Bortolo
Landbouwkrediet - Colnago
Lotto - Domo
Phonak Hearing Systems
Quick Step - Davitamon
Saunier Duval - Prodir
T-Mobile Team
Vini Caldirola - Nobili

Latest doping sanctions

The UCI has reported that the following riders have been sanctioned for doping offences:

Alejandro Diaz De La Peña, sanctioned by Federación Española de Ciclismo, fined CHF 300.
Fausto Esparza Muñoz, sanctioned by Federación Mexicana de Ciclismo, disqualification from GP Cycliste de Beauce, 18 June, 2003, suspension of 6 months from 6 August, 2003 to 5 February, 2004 and fine of CHF 1,250.
Rafael Mateos Perez, sanctioned by Federación Española de Ciclismo, disqualification from GP Pino Cerami April 10, 2003, suspension of 6 months from 19 September, 2003 to 19 June, 2004 and fine of CHF 2,000.
Julian Adrada Rodriguez, sanctioned by Federación Española de Ciclismo, warning (art. 129 AER).

Bannister Allen passes on

American race announcer Bannister Allen has died from cancer, aged 50. The following obituary was written by Dale Brown, a Greensboro, North Carolina bike shop owner:

At about 50 years old, Bannister lost his long battle with cancer today at his home in Southern Pines, NC. He is survived by one sister and niece and his mother, who is in her early 90s. He was a notable figure in the bicycle world.

Originally from northern Virginia, Bannister professionally wore many hats. He was a motorcycle enthusiast and became the national sales manager for Kawasaki Motorcycles. He then moved on to become a business consultant for the motorcycle industry.

In the early 1990s Bannister also became interested in bicycling and shifted his business focus to include bicycle dealers. Cycles de ORO became one of his first clients; he personally conducted sales training sessions in the shops and may have been one of the first to do that. He also became an active bike rider, road and mountain, despite his chain smoking habit. He served as president of the Greensboro, NC, bicycle club.

In the mid 1990s, Bannister purchased a Schwinn franchise bicycle shop in Burlington, NC. In a very short time, he created a rich cycling culture in that community including a very active bicycle club, the Alamance/Burlington Bicycle Club. He co-opted the very successful Burlington Downtown Criterium race, which gained national prominence. Through a series of unfortunate business setbacks, he was forced to close his shop and he returned to consulting.

Bannister was a very popular bicycle race announcer who had a special affection for the racers themselves and forged many friendships in the sport.

Bannister through his business, "World's Fastest," produced numerous writings about selling and management. His book titles included Peddling Bicycles Faster: Selling Bicycles and Peddling Bicycles To Win: Managing a Bicycle Store. He frequently spoke at trade shows and wrote articles that appeared in trade journals. He was a bright and highly opinionated person, with a short temper, tenacious (stubborn?) nature and rascally love of fun that endeared him to many and yet alienated a few. His tough persona was evident in his difficult struggle with his illness, throughout which he retained his wry sense of humour.

Bannister Allen will be deeply missed and fondly remembered by those of us who were honoured to call him our dearest friend.

Valley Athletic Club/Specialized team

The Valley Athletic Club/Specialized Race Team, based out of Olympia, Washington, USA, has announced its team roster and sponsors for the 2004 season. The team will be focusing on road events throughout the Northwest United States with several NRC events planned for the elite squad.

Full release and team roster

Technocycle BRC finalises roster

TechnoCycle BRC, an amateur USCF team based out of Sinking Spring, Pennsylvania, USA has taken on a new title sponsor. Dynaflo, Inc. ( of Birdsboro, Pennsylvania will be the team's title sponsor for the 2004 season. The team has also finalized its roster for the upcoming Pennsylvania Cycling Association BAR series beginning in early April.

Full release and team roster

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